Capturing Moving Objects

panning.jpgTaking pictures of moving vehicles can be challenging and quite frustrating to get good results. While getting your panning technique down is the major part of it, there is often much more to it than simply pressing the shutter at the right time. Today we head over to a local car show to snag some action shots and give you some pointers on how to get the best results possible.


lambo_pan.jpgThe first technique to master is basic panning, this refers to keeping the camera pointed at the moving vehicles as it is moving to try to get the sharpest image of the vehicle without worrying about the background. If you have enough light for the autofocus to work well, you should set the autofocus to continuous mode so it will keep adjusting the focus as you pan across the scene following the vehicle.

While the basic technique is simple enough, things are not always that simple. Without enough light (like today’s heavily overcast day) the autofocus won’t be fast enough to make sure the focus is always right on when you need it.


coupe.jpgIf you are suffering from slow focus or shutter lag then the solution for you will be to pre-focus. What this means is to use manual focus and set the focus to the spot where the vehicle is going to be when you want to press the shutter. This will eliminate the autofocus problem but since you will only have one specific spot that the vehicle will be in focus, you wont be able to get a series of shots using burst mode. You will still want to pan with the vehicle to keep it framed well and when it gets to the pre-focus spot, take the shot.

Shutter Speed

gt350.jpgThe best setting to use is going to be shutter priority or manual mode. If you don’t have really good light, manual mode will be best and you may even need to bump up the iso speed. You still then need to make sure you are getting a good shutter speed. Of course, the faster the shutter speed the sharper the image will be, however, if you use too fast of a shutter then the background and the wheels will be too sharp making it look like the vehicle is sitting still. The trick is to find a shutter speed that is fast enough to keep the vehicle tack sharp but slow enough to get a slight blurring on the background and the wheels to help convey the movement of the vehicle.


Get out and practice, practice, practice. Sit on the curb on a busy street and snap as many pics as you can to help master the technique.


Kerry Garrison lives in Castle Rock, Colorado with his wife and two dogs. With 10 years of experience shooting products and 5 years of experience in the wedding industry, Kerry brings a good deal of technical know-how and can explain topics in easy-to-understand terms.

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5 Responses

  1. 90CUT says:

    Thanks for the info…

    but i think main part is “Get out and practice, practice, practice.”

  1. February 5, 2009
  2. January 1, 2014

    […] Capturing Moving Objects – a brief but very helpful series of tips and tricks to use when shooting moving objects, like cars.  I’ve used these techniques quite a bit myself in my practice, and the guidelines shared in this article are key to achieving high quality results. […]

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